Planning for renewable energy

The UK is under pressure to harness more renewable energy. How does this interact with local planning considerations?

With climate change concerns rarely out of the news and with ever-increasing oil prices, the need to harness renewable energy and push ahead with large-scale renewable projects is key. While electricity production from sources such as wind and solar power is often criticised for its intermittent and variable nature, International Energy Agency (IEA) research has aimed to dispel such myths. The IEA has highlighted how the use of renewable technologies contributes to the diversification of electricity sources, increases overall flexibility of the system and ensures resistance to central crises and alerts.

Under European legislation, the UK must ensure that 15 per cent of its overall energy consumption comes from renewable sources by 2020. The planning regime has an important role to play. However, the visual and ecological impacts — of wind farms in particular — are controversial. Planning for renewable projects can present numerous difficulties and hurdles. In its 2011 UK Renewable Energy Roadmap, the Department of Energy & Climate Change emphasised that ‘projects are generally more likely to succeed if they have broad public support and the consent of local communities — this means giving communities both a say and a stake’.  Recent legislation, guidance and planning appeal decisions attempt to facilitate this local proactivity. But are the developments a step in the right direction? …

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